Revelation chapter twenty is about the three main views of the Millennium: Post-millennium/Postmillennial, Pre-millennium/Premillennial, and Am-millennium/Amillennial (see background article) that intersect into the four views. Chapters twenty-one and twenty-two deal with the literal versus the non-literal interpretation of Scripture. Each of the four views takes various positions within each of these millennia views.
This passage starts the millennial viewpoints. Most theologians in Church history from the early church fathers such as Augustine, and including the Reformers Calvin and Luther, saw this passage as metaphoric; “Amillennial” as in not a literal but symbolic interpretation. This is mainly because it is what the texts stated by the usage of the Jewish metaphoric words and genre. There have been some that have seen a future “premillennial” viewpoint such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyer, and most famous, Isaac Newton (there debate is whether this happens before or after Christ’s return; most see after). But, these people were not well schooled in biblical languages or well read in this subject. There is another group who are versed in biblical languages and well educated that takes a “postmillennial” view and include Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and Charles Finney (he was not well educated, not that education is that important, but gives one more tools to examine and more information to see what God has to say) that a millennial Kingdom would precede Jesus’ second coming. Hence, there was a lot of controversy in the mid-twentieth century when most people who wrote on this subject no longer looked to genres, historical background, original languages, or were just biblically illiterate, so all kinds of theories exist through to today. One example is not realizing that so much of this is dependent on the Old Testament metaphors used in places such as in Jeremiah. The main problem is that Christians divide over this, regarding their position as the solely correct and imminent one when Christ Himself told us in Matthew 24 what will happen and not to theorize or fret over it, just be prepared. That means to grow in faith in Him, not spend our energies in argumentation. Ironically, people who engage in vicious debate and fight over this only serve Satan and not Christ!
The word millennium is a combination of two Latin words, mille, meaning a “thousand,” and annus, meaning a “year”. The debate is over if this is to be taken literally as 1,000 definite years, or interpreted metaphorically (as the language suggests), meaning a long, indeterminate period of time. There are three main popular views to this subject:
Amillennialism: This millennium portrays the present reign of Christ, God’s kingdom, which will be followed by Christ’s second coming. The souls of the departed are with Christ in heaven. Most in this camp believe that after Christ’s final judgment, the new earth will be formed—His eternal, perfect kingdom. This is the most popular view from the Early Church Fathers, the Reformers, and most denominations today. They believe that Christ through His work, death, and resurrection defeated Satan and he is restricted, and bound in power and scope to allow the spread of the Gospel and the building of the Church. This view sees us now in the millennium. Many sensationalists today say this view is heresy, but it is not; it is within the scope of biblical theology as clearly defined by Scripture. Such sensationalists rarely read the Bible for what it says or in its context! This is also not an essential matter (Matt. 12:9; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 17:8; 19:9)!
Premillennialism: We are living in a partial aspect of God’s kingdom which in time will become the great climax of Christ’s return when He will start His Kingdom full on, which says that the Second Coming of our Lord will take place before the millennium. Then, Jesus will literally reign on earth for a thousand years that will merge into the eternal kingdom, in an age of peace and righteousness on a new earth.
Postmillennialism: This world will eventually all or mostly be converted to Christianity; then and only then will the millennium of a new earth filled with peace and prosperity begin. This view has Christ returning after the millennium, and we Christians in charge; it is up to us to engage this before His second coming. Then, Christ presides over the final judgment and eternity.
Just like the four views, Preterist, Futurist, Idealist and Historicist, all these views are also mostly read into the text. There is truth and error in each one, since Scripture does not teach any of them fully (see background article for more information).